EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Happy National Coffee Day! If you haven’t had your coffee yet, it’s time to grab some (check out these places for a free cup) and sit down to read the Smart Set. To pair with your espresso: An article about the Italian origins of Starbucks and why there are none in Italy.

The invention of Mr. Coffee in the 1970s was an enormous leap for American coffee drinkers: Before then, most coffee was boiled in percolators at home or prepared inexpensively in industrial-scale drips to be consumed at diners. The result was mostly terrible — there’s a reason that coffee ruined by wives and secretaries was a running gag in midcentury sitcoms. •

Read It: Counter Culture by Sara Davis

Get in touch with The Smart Set at editor@thesmartset.com.

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

The first thing Azeb wanted to know about me was if I was on Facebook. After that she got to the less important stuff: Where I was from, if I was married, had kids, believed in God — and what was I doing in southern Ethiopia? Azeb, a 25-year-old business student with big glowing eyes and long dark hair, was born and raised not far from where we were having breakfast. We ended up sitting together when we realized we were the only people in the dining room at the Lesiwon Hotel in Yirgacheffe, the namesake town of a region known to coffee cognoscenti for producing some of Ethiopia’s highest-quality coffee beans.

As Azeb scooped up pieces of her omelet with torn-off hunks of bread, as is the Ethiopian custom, I stabbed at mine with a fork and told her about my travels thus far in her country. But it… More…

On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, in the middle of a patchy square of lawn that fronts a fading seaside motel, a plywood sign emblazoned with orange spray-paint letters announces the motel’s latest amenity: free Wi-Fi. A continent away, in the gray outer reaches of San Francisco, in a part of town where tiny, dingy laundromats outnumber Starbucks by a ratio of about five to zero, the tiniest, dingiest laundromat in the neighborhood displays a similar notice in its smudgy front window. This sign is fashioned from laser paper rather than plywood, but the slapdash aesthetic and straightforward message are the same: free Wi-Fi.

 

In between these two down-market outposts of communitarian idealism, approximately 42,361 other establishments — including a truck stop in Gila Bend, Arizona; the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and the oldest strip club in… More…

 

This was not the tourist season, and in any case the island to which we were bound was no longer an attraction for tourists” — Graham Greene, The Comedians

As we puttered along in the bumper-to-bumper Port-au-Prince traffic, rolling over occasional streams of raw sewage, Saíntil explained to us that his favorite actor was Shaquille O’Neal. He particularly liked Shaq in the movie Steel.

Saíntil made a quick shortcut through a dodgy alley and we passed a mangy, rabid dog fighting with an enormous pig — literally paw and snout — over the right to eat a pile of garbage. After the shortcut, we were back to a standstill, surrounded by the vibrant reds and blues and yellows of the crazy tap-taps carrying sardined passengers in the overcrowded streets, windshields emblazoned with “Christ Is The Big Captain,” “Lamentations 3:26,” and “Sylvester Stallone.”

As we pondered Shaquille O’Neal’s thespian work,… More…